by Heather R. Darsie
The other day I was looking for anything interesting which might have happened during the reign of Henry VIII to mark the first day of summer. I tripped across a note about a “Blanche Rose,” stating, “Receipt from Jacques de Eesbeke, messenger of the King Catholic, for 60 gold florins paid him by Th. Spinelly for two journeys into Metz, in the matter of Blanche Rose. Brussels, xxi June 1516.” Given that my specialty as an historian is more with peoples of the Holy Roman Empire, I was intrigued. Who or what was the “Blanche Rose”?
The Blanche Rose, or White Rose, was Richard de la Pole. Born in 1480, Richard was the son of John de la Pole, 2d Duke of Suffolk and Elizabeth Plantagenet of York, Duchess of Suffolk. This particular Elizabeth of York was the sister of Edward IV and Richard III. The White Rose was the youngest of eleven children born to the couple, and the youngest boy. John, the White Rose’s eldest brother, was designated as the Yorkist Richard III’s heir if Richard died without an heir. After the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the result of which saw Henry Tudor become Henry VII, John swore an oath of allegiance to Henry VII.
John broke his oath two years later when he joined with Lambert Simnel. John ultimately died at the Battle of Stoke. The White Rose’s second eldest brother, Edmund, was now in charge of the family’s estates, but had to pay large amounts of money to Henry VII in order to keep control over them. Their brother, William, was kept as prisoner by Henry VII. All this was a fallout from John’s treasonous behaviour.
In 1504, the White Rose left England with Edmund. He spent most of his time at Aix-le-Chapelle, where he was under constant threat of being sent to Henry VII if Edmund did not stay on top of his debts. Edmund did not stay long with the White Rose. Edmund attempted to ingratiate himself to the Duke of Saxony, but was captured by the bellicose Duke of Guelders in around 1504. Edmund was eventually transferred to the custody of Archduke Philip, known as the Handsome, around 1506. When Philip the Handsome set off for Spain to claim his wife Juana the Mad’s right jure uxoris to the Kingdom of Castile, Philip’s ship encountered trouble and was forced to land in England. Philip agreed to hand over Edmund to Henry VII. The White Rose was now the only one of the surviving three brothers who was free.
The White Rose was eventually able to wind his way to Buda, in modern-day Hungary, where he found solace in the court of Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary. Vladislaus’ children, Anne of Bohemia and Hungary, and King Louis II of Croatia, Bohemia, and Hungary went on to have double-marriages with the burgeoning central European powerhouse, the Habsburgs.
In 1512, the now 42-year-old White Rose was recognised by Louis XII of France as the true King of England, and put the French army under the White Rose’s control during the War of the League of Cambrai. At some point, Richard picked up his nickname of “White Rose” because the white rose is the symbol of the House of York. His brother Edmund was executed in 1513, though his brother William languished in the Tower until his death in 1539.
The next year, 1514, the White Rose prepared his invasion of England. He received more than 10,000 Landsknechte, or German mercenaries, for his effort. The White Rose and his troops stayed at St. Malo, but ultimately took no action because England and France were able to establish peace. Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, married the aged Louis XII of France as a result of this peace. Another requirement was that the White Rose be expelled from France. The White Rose went to Metz in Lorraine to live out the rest of his life.
While in Lorraine, the White Rose managed to outwit Henry VIII by employing Henry’s own spies. Additionally, the White Rose convinced Francis I of France to allow him to invade England. A deposition from 18 August 1522 shows just how serious a threat the White Rose was to England,
“…the King [of France] intended to set Ric. De la Pole forward with a great number of men, and, with the help of Denmark, land him in England in those parts where the duke of Buckingham had lands, where they would burn and destroy man, woman and child. The French king would give him 50,000 crowns, and every nobleman and gentleman had promised him a contribution.”
The threat of an invasion lingered into 1523, with Pace writing to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey on 3 January that,
“The s[ignor Hierony]mus” told him yesterday that he had received letters of the 10th ult. from the French court, stating that Albany, on his arrival, had offered to expel Henry from England, if Francis would give him 10,000 men and 500 men-at-arms, with Ric. De la Pole to accompany him. Francis had answered that he liked the enterprise, and would consider it with his council.”
By early March 1523, it was reported that Francis I ordered a fleet of ships be prepared for the White Rose so that he could land in Scotland and join with the Duke of Albany. Such rumours and reports continued throughout 1523. Despite Francis’ assent, no aid ever materialized, and the White Rose never again went to England.
The White Rose, Richard de la Pole, died on 24 February 1525 at the Battle of Pavia. The Battle of Pavia was fought between Francis I and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The White Rose fought on the side of Francis I. Francis himself was captured by the Emperor.
Love learning about the Queens of England? Are you interested in Tudor history or Women’s history? Then check out my book, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, a new biography about Anne of Cleves told from the German perspective!
Please check out my new podcast, Tudor Speeches.
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- Gloriana’s Rainbow: Elizabeth I and the Rainbow Portrait
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- The Ark Royal
Sources & Suggested Reading
- Letters & Papers, Vol. 2, 1515-1518, No. 2072
- Letters & papers, Vol. 3, 1519-1523, No. 2446.
- Letters & papers, Vol. 3, 1519-1523, No. 2755.
- Letters & papers, Vol. 3, 1519-1523, Nos. 2869, 2870.
- Jones, Dan. The Plantagenets. New York: Viking Publishing (2013).